Nancy Smith Hopp (WA ’61), author of Warm Light, Cool Shadows: The Life and Art of Ruth Van Sickle Ford, will visit Town House Books, 105 N. 2nd Ave., St. Charles, on Saturday, June 2, 2012, from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. to sign copies of her book. The colorful life of pioneering artist and teacher Ruth Van Sickle Ford (WA ’15), one of the Midwest’s best watercolorists, has been chronicled in this 177-page hardcover biography.
Publication of the book culminated more than 7 years of research into the artistic passion and “tough love” teaching style of one of the Fox Valley’s most successful artists. The narrative of Warm Light, Cool Shadows is interspersed with 75 color reproductions of Ford’s watercolor and oil paintings and 30 candid photographs.
Award-winning artist and author Wendell Minor (WA ’62) provided the design format for the book and wrote the foreword. Referring to Ford as Aurora’s “first lady of the arts,” he added, “She was a considerable presence in the arts at a time when male artists were most prominent.” Both Ford and Minor were among the charter class of inductees into the Fox Valley Arts Hall of Fame in 2002. The Hall inducted its most recent class of artists at a banquet held on April 19. One of those honored, Delbert Peterson of Vero Beach, Florida, formerly a resident of Batavia, had been a student of Ford’s in the 1960s and 1970s.
To see an extraordinary video on the making of this book, click here:
Minor has conducted signings at Town House Books in the past. Best known for children’s stories and the covers of David McCullough’s books, some recent titles he has illustrated and/or written include If You Were a Penguin, Night Flight, The Wolves Are Back, Buzz Aldrin’s Look to the Stars, and Abraham Lincoln Comes Home. Hopp and Minor are former high school classmates. They have entered Warm Light, Cool Shadows into competition for national publishing awards.
At one time a student of Ford’s, Nancy Smith Hopp enjoyed a long career in marketing communications before retiring in 2007. She has written a wide variety of publications over the years, including more than 36 short stories for her grandchildren. Warm Light, Cool Shadows is her first full-length biography.
Ruth Van Sickle Ford was born in 1897 and raised in the Fox River Valley. She graduated from the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts in 1918 and continued her studies in Chicago and New York under the tutelage of some of the most respected artists of the time – John Carlson, George Bellows, Jonas Lie, and Guy Wiggins. Describing her career, Ruth said, “My theories were first impressed upon me by my teachers, and further developed by my own work and thinking. Talent in art is nothing more than a desire. It isn’t something you acquire…desire makes you want to study and learn all you can.”
Ford was the first woman from Illinois to be invited into the prestigious American Watercolor Society in 1954, and the first woman artist member of Chicago’s Palette & Chisel Academy in 1960. She was one of the few Chicago artists invited to exhibit alongside such notable masters as Edward Hopper, Grant Wood, Rockwell Kent, and Winslow Home during the Century of Progress exhibition at the Art Institute of Chicago in 1933-34.
Ford returned to the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts to teach in 1920, and in 1937, became president and director of the school, a post she held for 23 years. Many of the students she nurtured went on to win Pulitzer Prizes, Oscars, and other prestigious awards. Perhaps most notable among them was editorial cartoonist Bill Mauldin.
In 1949, with her colleague, architect Bruce Goff, Ford and her husband constructed a home and studio on Aurora’s far west side known as the Round House. Built with coal and glass, it drew the interest of Mies van der Rohe, who was building the Farnsworth House in Plano at about the same time. The home continues to attract international attention from students of architecture.
Known for her flamboyant personality and free sense of perspective, Ruth exhibited her paintings throughout North America and Central America for more than 5 decades. She continued to teach and paint until her death in 1989 at age 91.
Ford’s painting of “The Little Traveler” is featured in the April 2012 issue of American Art Review as part of a story about a traveling exhibit called “Skirting Convention, Illinois Women Artists 1840 – 1940.” The exhibition is on display at Eastern Illinois University in Charleston from May 26 through September 6, 2012. Channy Lyons, curator for the exhibit, wrote the testimonial for the back jacket cover of Warm Light, Cool Shadows.
For more information about the June 2 signing, call Hopp at 630-892-0113 or Town House Books at 630-584-8600.